Chapter Eleven: Shriveling To Ashes
Standing in front of the entrance gates of Alamut, I gaze wearily at the orange sky.
The night will come soon and I need to get some rest, yet I feel restless.
After meeting with our Master, Sef came telling me that he had failed the task I had given him. Apparently, the presence of a fair amount of beautiful women seemed to have distracted my young Assassin brother, as he escorted Lusia to her chambers. Taking his weakness to her advantage, she silently ran as soon as Sef was not looking.
I have not yet bothered to try and find her. Somehow I know that when she is ready, she will come and find me.
A warm breeze lifts some of the desert sand, blowing it towards me. I close my eyes, sheltering them from and feel the air around me change. The silent rustle of sand behind me confirms my suspicion Lusia had not gone far.
Her sweet voice sounds bitter.
“I can only be sure you must hate me now.”
Inhaling some of the cooling air, I keep my eyes shut.
Realizing she does not reply, I turn around and face her.
Her emerald eyes gaze at me as if trying to pierce through my skull. Yet there is no need for this as I am not her enemy, and she is not mine.
“I only have a few questions.”
“And what if I choose not to answer?”
Crossing her arms she straightens her back and raises her head. Her attempt at intimidation makes me chuckle.
I outstretch my arm, showing her the way towards the desert.
“You are no prisoner here, so you may leave whenever you wish. Although, I am pretty sure there is something keeping you here still.”
“And why would you assume this?”
I walk up to her, passing her by, and sit down on the pleasantly warm sand.
“Because if it weren’t, you would have already left.”
Turned with her back towards me, I curiously observe her stiffened body as she is forced to make a decision. Sighing loudly she turns to me. Annoyance brewing on her face.
“Alright…what is it you want to know?”
Pulling my short blade, I carefully examine it before holding it up for her to see.
“I know this thing has not been cast by magic, so your skills did not appear out of nowhere. Who taught you how to use this?”
Her eyes shift to every direction except for mine. Biting her lip she turns away, sighing deeply as she stares into the desert. As if conflicted, she shudders before finally starting to talk.
“Do you remember me telling you about the actions of my father?”
“That scumbag who handed you over as payment for his own gain?” I angrily say while nodding. “I remember.”
A soft chuckle reaches my ear.
“The first time it happened was…excruciating…so the second time it happened, I ran away…”
She faces me, embracing herself, and shudders when conjuring these torturous memories.
“The men he had given me to chased me down the street and caught up with me in a deserted alley. When they cornered me, a young street thief suddenly appeared and came to my rescue. His name was Jerbad, and he became my friend.”
A bright smile lights up her face when mentioning his name. A knot ties up in my stomach and I wonder why the sound of another man’s name coming from her lips makes me feel like I am jealous.
Frowning I pat the sand next to me inviting her to sit down. This she does and continues on, fiddling nervously with her fingers.
“Jerbad got angry when I told him what happened, and urged me to come along with him. But, knowing that I was all he had left, I could not bear thinking about leaving my father…”
She snorts. “Strange huh…?”
Her broken smile hits a nerve in my heart, making it ache. Somehow I feel she speaks the truth and lay a comforting hand on her lower back. My gentle touch softens the panicked look in her eyes and I feel my body shift, eagerly wanting to move closer.
Trembling she looks down at the desert sand, smiling grimly.
“Somehow, Jerbad was pretty skilled when it came to weaponry. So in order to help me, he taught me different ways to defend myself, in case a man would try to force me again… Because of this, over time my confidence grew and the ‘abuse’ slowly turned into ‘seduce’. Finally, I was able to gain control over whatever situation I was being put in.”
Glancing up at me she pauses and looks away as if feeling ashamed.
“Or at least…until they drugged me in Baghdad.”
Using my free hand, I tilt her head making her look up at me. Breathless she stares with tears in her eyes. The sight of this releases a burning desire, deep inside of me wanting to take all of her pain away.
“I wish I could have gotten to you sooner…” I say, barely recognizing my own voice.
Slowly I guide my fingers up to her cheek, sliding them through her soft dark hair, brushing it back. I stare down at her red, luscious lips which I desperately wish to devour.
Forcing myself to pull back I abruptly stand up from the sand. Taking a few steps towards the horizon, I wonder when the sun had set, as it has already given its place to the rising moon.
Sighing, I glance back at Lusia, thinking I still do not know whether I trust her or not. At my prior meeting with Al Beri, he told me I must do whatever is needed to pull the truth out of her. But I cannot treat her as I would any other.
“I understand Baghdad. But the shades, why did you not defend yourself against them then?”
With the back of her hand, Lusia wipes her nose as she pulls herself together before answering.
“I had no weapon…but that does not mean I did not try.” She says, pointing at the wound on her upper arm.
“That is how I was injured. After that, he grabbed me, and then I saw you…”
Caught up in thought I pace back and forth eyeing her curiously. Everything she has told me sounds plausible, yet there is only one thing left unanswered.
Her gaze remains upon me as I swiftly walk straight towards her. Startled, she leans back unable to move as I roughly grab her, pulling her up on her feet and tightly gripping her shoulders.
“And WHAT did they want with you?” I yell, growling almost, hoping a boost of sudden fear will reveal the truth.
“I already told you, I do not know!” She yells trying to push me off her.
Glaring, I keep my hold on her until she quits struggling. The frightened look in her eyes immediately weighs down on me and I loosen my grip when she sinks en turns away.
Releasing her, I take a few steps back, baffled about what I did. That look she just gave me is haunting, and I honestly wish to never see it again.
“I’m sorry…” I mutter. “…I did not mean to frighten you.”
Eyeing me suspiciously, she strokes the wound on her upper arm.
“Yes you did... because you do not think I speak the truth…”
Her trembling voice, filled with disappointment matches her eyes.
When our Master told me to interrogate her, I immediately knew I could not submit her to our usual ways. And I am happy for it because this is nothing compared to what happens down in the cellars below the fortress.
Taking a deep breath she manages to force a smile.
“This cold air makes me ache for warmth…so if you are satisfied with what I have told I wish to return to my chambers…”
Overwhelmed by my own confusion I slowly nod and watch her walk away with hunched shoulders. That sudden sense of protectiveness comes rushing back, making me call out to her.
Lusia freezes and stands still with her back towards me. For a moment I do not know what to say. Then I suddenly remember.
“I must leave Alamut tomorrow.”
Frowning she turns and looks at me.
“I and a few others are sent to Caïro, to free some of our Assassin brothers.”
“Caïro…?” She asks curiously and I nod.
I felt conflicted when Al Beri told me our destination. Caïro is where Lusia grew up. Since I am the one who brought her to Alamut, I feel obliged to make sure she can return home safely should she desire to go. On the other hand, a melancholy feeling overcomes me when I think about the chance that by doing that, I may never see her again.
“Al Beri said he has no problem with you coming with us if I decided to believe you had nothing to do with the Shades.”
Puzzled she looks at me, shivering from the sudden cold the night brings. Noticing this, I strap myself free from my weapons and take off my grey hooded robe, leaving me in just my pants and a thin, white linen shirt.
Thankful she takes it from me and pulls the warm fabric on, over her red dress.
“And what have you decided?” she asks, staring up at me, letting her eyes roam my face, towards my messy hair, and down to my chest.
I reach for the hood of my robe, slowly pulling it over her head making sure she is as warm as she can be. Curious I stare into her emerald eyes that are lit up by the light of the moon.
Once again I find myself gently stroking the side of her face. My heart strangely aches at the thought of her leaving, but I know that the choice needs to be up to her.
Leaning into my touch, Lusia closes her eyes. A satisfied sigh left her luscious, slightly parted, lips.
Staring at her divine face, I touch her lips with my thumb, stroking them softly. Her breath catches and mine increases, when I feel her voluptuous body press up against mine. She reaches out, touching my hand making me tremble with desire. A soft moan escapes my lips as I firmly pull her close against me. She gasps and stares at me with widened eyes.
Darkness and sand surround us, but even in the midst of a crowd, I doubt I would be able to see anyone else but her. Something about her keeps luring me in, and I cannot fight her temptation any longer.
“It is up to you to choose what you most desire…” I breathlessly whisper.
She gazes at me, eyes burning just as much as mine and I don’t think I can hold back any longer. Without thought, I lean in and peck her lips making her pull back slightly. Tightening my grip around her body I keep her close as I peck her again.
“Do you want to go…?”
Sighing at my words, she closes her eyes and I can feel her body starting to cave, giving in to mine. I grab her face between my fingers, turning her head until my lips brush against her ear.
A low growl arises as I roughly whisper.
“…or do you want to stay?”
Before I almost shrivel into ashes, her lips finally melt into mine.